John von Neumann with EDVAC/MANIAC I/IAS depending on source

See the image. Different sources claim that this machine is the EDVAC, MANIAC I, or IAS.

For example, the Wikipedia page on John von Neumann has a picture of him and J. Robert Oppenheimer standing in front of this machine with the caption that it is the EDVAC.
But the page about von Neumann's First Draft on the EDVAC has the same picture with the caption saying it is the MANIAC I. And the caption for this picture in an ACM article says that it is the IAS.

Which is it?

  • 1
    Welcome to Retrocomputing. Remember that there is always the possibility that it is none of the above, and everybody got it wrong.
    – wizzwizz4
    May 5, 2017 at 6:09
  • 2
    After digging through this a little deeper, it seems that the original source of the pics was incorrect, and also falsely claimed that they were public domain. As this happened a long time ago, and then the source was used in Wikipedia, it became definitive, but wrong.
    – scruss
    May 5, 2017 at 22:34

2 Answers 2


Your image is a crop of an image used in George Dyson's book “Turing's Cathedral”. IAS themselves credit it as “John von Neumann - standing in front of computer :: Electronic Computer Project”. It's also listed by Getty Images as “John von Neuman and the Institute for Advanced Study computer, Princeton, New Jersey, 1945”.

Many of the IAS clone machines looked similar, with some key differences. JOHNNIAC used Selectron devices, so lacked the distinctive Williams valve/tube “cylinder head” of the IAS machine. MANIAC moved the Williams storage valves up to the top of the cabinet (photos in this report: Computing & Computers: Weapons Simulation Leads to the Computer Era). EDVAC was quite different: it wasn't derived from the IAS machine.

So it's the original IAS machine.


Bear in mind that only one of each of the computers you mention was made. Rand built each new machine in a specific location for a specific organisation. All looking broadly similar.

Each development resulted in a new name, usually a play on where the machine was located. After ENIAC came:


It is possible that this picture could be any one of them. As some of these computers were for military purposes, the photograph's location may not have been positively identified at the time it was taken. It may not be possible to provide a definitive answer to your question.

You would need to find other - dated - photographs of Neumann and Oppenheimer and compare them with your picture. That would give an approximate date, which would narrow down the list of possible computers.

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